Jochen Peiper: Hero of the Waffen-SS
- Kommandeur: SS-Panzerregiment 1, 1. SS-Panzerdivision Leibstandarte AH
- Born: 15.1.15, Berlin, Germany
- Died: 14.7.76, Traves, France - murdered
Joachim 'Jochen' Peiper was born in Berlin on the fifteenth of January, 1915, as the son of a veteran from the african battles of WW I. He had two brothers, Hans-Hasso and Horst.
He entered Waffen-SS training in 1935, and was commissioned SS-Rottenführer soon afterwards. He started officer training for the Leibstandarte in the same year, and was commisioned SS-Unterführer on 25 February 1936.
In 1938 he was posted to the staff of Heinrich Himmler, in which he transported messages and arranged meetings to take place. He met his wife, Sigurd, who was working as one of Himmler's secretaries. They married on the 26.9.39, and had three children; Hinrich, Elke and Silke.
Peiper saw first combat with the Leibstandarte in 1940, during the campaign for France. He took part in the assault on the Wattenberg heights. This attack was noteworthy because it went against Hitler's famous 'halt' order for Dunkirk. British artillery was positioned on the hills, something which caused the LAH quite some irritation. Despite this order, Dietrich threw his unit at them and the positions were conquered. Peiper was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class for his actions that day.
For a period he commanded III.(gepanzert)/SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 2, and during this period he succeeded in saving the survivors of the 320. Infantriedivision, who were cut off by the Russians and slowly being annihilated, as well as earning the Ritterkreuz (9.3.43).
OB for Peiper's Batallion, during 2.43:
- 4 Zuge Pz.Gren. in SPW's (SdKfz. 251)
- 4 Zuge Pz.Gren. in SPW's
- 4 Zuge Pz. Gren. in SPW's
- 1 Zug Grille 38 (t)
- 1 Zug SPW 75mm (lang)
- 1 Zug SPW 37mm (kurz)
- 1 Pionierzug (SPW)
- 1 section PaK rifles.
His most famous command was no doubt SS-Kampfgruppe Peiper during Wacht am Rhein. For his actions in this campaign, he received Schwerter am Ritterkreuz (11.1.45, Eichenlaub; 27.1.44) and was promoted to SS-Standartenführer, which made him the youngest regimental colonel in the Waffen-SS, commanding SS-Panzerregiment 1.
In G. Williamson's 'Loyalty is my Honour', p. 156, we find a personnal account from Peiper, regarding the alledged torching of Russian villages:
"For a long time I commanded III./Panzergrenadierregiment 2 of the Leibstandarte. This unit had made quite a name for its night attacks in Russia and was known in divisional and Korps areas as the 'Blowtorch Battalion'. Our troops used this highly practical tool in the winter to pre-heat the engines in our vehicles, to heat water quickly for cooking and many other things. There was also a saying among the soldiers in those days when they were given a task: "we will soon torch that". The vehicles even used a blowtorch as a tactical symbol. During post-war interrogations, however, this name was twisted from the "Blowtorch battalion" to the "Arson Battalion". It was suggested that the blowtorches were used to burn down houses. In action our armoured personnel carriers were in the habit of going into the attack at full speed and with all guns blazing. As the Russian houses mostly had thatched roofs, it was inevitable that they would catch fire during the battle. It would certainly be unnecessary for troops to dismount from their vehicles and use blowtorches to set houses on fire when they would already catch fire during the firing, but it was just one more allegation with which to blacken the image of Waffen-SS troops."
Another one of the so-called 'war crimes' that chased Peiper until long after the war was the incident at Boves.
On 18.9.43, Peiper found himself in Cuneo, together with his SPW-Batallion and SS-Aufklärungsabteilung 1. It was their mission to disarm the now capitulated Italian Army. SS-Obersturmführer Dinse was Cuneo’s military commander. An Italian Lt. Colonel introduced himself to Peiper as being a diplomatic member of the Italian Fourth Army, and told Peiper to leave the province of Cuneo within the next 24 hours, otherwise his Batallion would be completely destroyed. He remarked that Peiper did not stand a chance in the mountains. Peiper’s reaction was quick, and he ordered leaflets to be dispersed which stated that the Italian Army was to surrender. Peiper drove to Boves to point out to the Mayor what the consequences were, what would happen to civilians in accordance with international low, who fought together with the regular army or partisans. SW of Cuneo, Peiper’s battalion stood against a large formation of the Italian Fourth Army, reinforced with partisans. The city of Boves and the slopes of Monta Bisalta behind the city, about 6 km S of Cuneo, was the center of partisan activity. A detailed overview of what happened that day is needed, as it would lead to a juridical investigation in 1965 against Jochen Peiper and his Kompanieführer; Erhard Gürhs and Otto Dinse. On the morning of 19.9 SS-Oberscharführer Karl Wiezoreck and SS-Unterscharführer Kurt Butenhoff drove from Cuneo to Boves in a Kübelwagen, they were looking for spare parts in an abandoned depot of the Italian Army. When they arrived on the local market, they were taken ‘prisoner of war’ by Italian soldiers. They saw how Italian civilians were loading ammunition and food in trucks. Then they were blindfolded, and taken to the mountains S of Boves. They were questioned and locked up in a tower next to a chapel. Dinse heard from the Italian police officers, that two of his men were captured by the Italian Army. Peiper ordered Dinse to get them back. He left with a truck and one SPW, 10 soldiers, 11 with Dinse included, to Boves. When he arrived he found an abandoned city, but he heard from the local police that the two captured SS men were held in a camp in the surrounding mountains. Dinse left, searching for the camp. Outside Boves he was ambushed by Italian soldiers. He reported this to Peiper through the radio. Peiper told him to drove back to a point where he would meet him. At that time, the Italian soldiers opened fire, wounding several and killing SS-Sturmmman Willi Steinmetz. Under the cover of smoke grenades, the others pulled back. Peiper arrived with 13 and 14 Kompanie at 13:00 in Boves. SS-Untersturmführer Erhard Gührs went left and Peiper went, together with Dinse’s unit, through the centrum of Boves. Peiper recalls how:
“We were ‘welcomed’ with heavy rifle and machinegun fire, from the houses and the surrounding hills, hand grenades were thrown at us from above, very dangerous for opened-topped SPW. There were several men wounded and some dead, I had holes in my uniform and my radio was destroyed. I ordered a withdrawal, and ordered the Grillen (Mechanized artillery) to open fire on that part of the town where the enemy was. Several houses caught fire, and under cover of the smoke, soldiers and civilians withdrew in a part of the town we could not observe.”
Peiper went forwards, driving through Boves and reached the unit of Dinse at the other side. He talked with Dinse and Gühr about the possibility, to release the two captured men and to remove the body of their fallen comrade, Steinmetz. They went forwards and found his body. At that time, mortar and grenade fire opened up on them. Peiper ordered the Grillen to answer the fire. The Italians fled and Wiezoreck and Butenhoff escaped. They waved with tissues to show their location to Peiper. The firing was ceased, and the units went back to Cuneo. The Grille platoon stayed in Boves, to destroy the remaining weapons and ammunition. Peiper:
“When I returned in Cuneo, the Prefect, General Salvi, offered me his apologies for the incident at Boves, he told me that the Communists were to be blamed.”
In 1968 the German Minister of Justice declared that there was no reason to persecute Peiper, and the case was dismissed on 23.12.68.
Peiper, after the Leibstandarte fought from all sides against Czech partisans and Russian Waffen-SS men who turned against them, did not feel like surrendering. He set off with a few heavily armed men to his house, back to his wife Sigi. Sadly, he was captured just a few miles from his 'last objective', as he called it.
A long period of bitterness started for Peiper after his capture. He was captured by the Americans who had little understanding of what had happened during the war, and had already pre-judged the entire SS organization. Peiper was only subject to physical torture once; they locked him in the 'Warmezelle', a small cabin were the temperature soared to 60 C°. He grabbed a chair and smashed the central heating system in the room, that was the end of it. Others were not so lucky. The younger Waffen-SS prisoners were subject to routine beatings by the MP's. Peiper was sentenced to death, but this was never carried out.
Only in December 1956 did he got free again. He spend his youth on the battlefield and in jail. But Germany was not receptive towards him. Everywhere he went, his past and his alleged 'war crimes' kept following him. He called the Bundesrepublik (former West-Germany) a 'bankrupt society' and left for France in 1970.
Peiper's words to Charles Whiting were, before he left to France: "I'm sitting on a powder barrel. Ellis, Kempner and Wiesenthal, they've all tried to get me in the past. One day someone will come along with another 'story' and the powder-keg will explode under me. Then it will be all over."
Jochen, unaware to him, had just predicted his own fate. On the night of 14 July 1976, he was murdered in his house by French communists, between 23:30 and 24:00. They had thrown a petrol bomb through the windows of his house, and Peiper passed out because of the smoke while the house stood in flames. It was finally over for the man who earned more respect than entire Allied divisions put together. His son, Hinrich, was even barred from school in Germany because of his father's past. He now lives in the States, where he hopefully found a better life.
This text was saved from the site about Jochen Peiper, Heinz von Westernhagen, and the Leibstandarte SS "Adolf Hitler". Unfortunately, the site is now dead with the whole Geocities hosting.